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Creating space for women in technology roles

Cristiane Kussuki, project management officer, Sodexo Brazil

About the author : Cristiane Kussuki

Project management officer, Sodexo Brazil

I’ve always been good at math; I was champion of the Brazilian Mathematics Olympics at age 13.

Cristiane Kussuki profile pictureAt the time I wanted to be a dentist, but my father, who was part of the first generation working with technology in Brazil, persuaded me to go to a Federal Technology School and choose one of the 6 STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering & Math) courses they offered there. I chose Data Processing and that was how my career path began.

When I was 16, I became the youngest mainframe programmer at one of Brazil’s top 3 banks. I went on to study a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics through evening classes and, before graduating, I had progressed in my job to become senior systems analyst. I continued working in banking technology for 12 years across several functions and reached a leadership role. I was completely dedicated to my work and studies so when my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family, I just couldn’t see how it could work. I didn’t have any female role models within the industry to show me it was possible to balance career and family life.

So, I decided to change industry. I joined the largest natural gas distributor in Brazil in their technology department. The workforce was predominantly male, but technology was less critical for this type of business; emergencies were gas leaks. Once I had settled into my role, implementing a new systems architecture for the company, I had my two daughters. I stayed with this company for 10 years and had the opportunity to work outside of technology, focusing on change management and business process transformation, supporting the CEO and board.

In 2016, I started a social impact business and, in 2017, I submitted the business model to the Global Impact Challenge of the Singularity University. As one of the finalists, I went to California to present my idea and be part of the global summit for the challenge. When I came back to Brazil, Accenture Digital invited me to be part of their leadership team.

Finding a space where women can lead

Whilst at Accenture, I realized I preferred working in-house, rather than for an external consultancy. The real specialists of any business are its workforce and leadership. 

I heard about an opportunity in Sodexo Brazil’s technology team, which seemed perfect. At the time, Sodexo’s region chair in Brazil was female, showing me that Sodexo was one of the companies where women really have space to develop and grow. 

When I joined Sodexo as a project management officer, I also joined the regional leadership team of the gender balance network, SoTogether, and became a change ambassador for Sodexo Brazil. 

Discover more about my career journey so far in this video:

 

Through my project management role, I am responsible for IS&T demand management, project management, project portfolio management and governance. My main focus now is on the global IS&T transformation program and, once it is complete, I will be responsible for innovation, architecture, business relationships, compliance, control and quality, change management and communication within the regional IS&T department.

I love being part of the solution

I love working on projects because every day is different. Once a challenge is complete, you have a queue of new challenges waiting for you. I’ve never liked routine and love creative problem solving. But I do believe in governance, frameworks, best practice and collective knowledge.

Technology is a great tool to solve business problems by creating new products and enabling new business models. I love being part of the solution.

To succeed in a technology role you must keep learning about continually advancing technology, as well as from others around you. Whatever your calling is, love it, and don’t let anyone else discourage you from your career dreams.

Finding the right balance

Family picture
3rd of 4 sisters, I’m the one in the red dress

I’ve always felt an internal battle to balance my personal and professional ambitions. When I had just become a mother, I craved spending time with my new baby, but at the same time didn’t want to give up on my career. I wish I’d had the opportunity to take a longer maternity leave, work part-time or work from home, but I forced myself to leave my baby in a nursery and work with only half my heart. I suffered from depression for several years as a result.

I don’t have just one role model, I have many. Nobody is perfect or complete, but many women throughout history have achieved amazing things. If you ever need inspiration, I recommend a quick look at ‘100 women of the year’ from Time magazine.

Raising awareness of unconscious bias

More than 99% of our decisions are unconscious and being aware of the unconscious bias we each have is crucial to achieving a more balanced workforce across all types of roles. Sodexo’s SoTogether network is making great progress in increasing gender balance across all roles throughout the company, but there is always more which can be done.

We still have some gaps in STEM areas at Sodexo; this is an industry-wide issue, but one we continue to work on. Within Sodexo, I am a volunteer mentor for young apprentices and an ambassador for the annual SheWorks program. SheWorks is a program created to ensure the advancement of women in Facilities Management positions which are currently male dominated, especially those in vulnerable situations.  Outside of Sodexo I am a volunteer mentor in two movements for more women in technology, MCIO Academy and SerMulherEmTech and a faculty in the Falcons University, helping the development of social leaders.

Only with an open and clear dialogue will we be able to attract, develop and retain female talent, at all levels, and ensure women are equally represented in leadership positions.

Find out more about a career at Sodexo! Sodexo Brazil

This article was created by Cristiane Kussuki, project management officer, Sodexo Brazil

May 11, 2021

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